The reading level for this article is Novice

If I accomplish nothing else in life, my goal is to help small businesses understand that they are not big businesses. Not yet anyway. Therefore, their advertising must be different.

Coca Cola, the world’s leader in soft drinks, can run ads anywhere and just mention a Coke and consumers will already know what the product is and where to buy it.

If you are a small business, chances are that people do not yet know who you are and therefore are not as inspired to buy from you. The Coca Cola example was advertising aimed at maintaining their brand image. As a small business, you must focus on immediate results, which means sales!

Here’s the specific difference between a well known, large corporation and your small business:

The large corporation runs advertising at the masses and is confident that enough people already know who they are and become motivated to buy. Large corporations can talk about themselves in their advertising. Your small business cannot. You must focus on your customers’ needs or else you will not get their attention.

Following the example that large corporations give, many small businesses focus on “themselves” in their advertising. This approach does not work well for an unknown company. Take for example, newspaper advertising. The reader is skimming through for whatever catches his or her interest. That’s it! That means articles and ads that deliver what this potential buyer wants and needs.

What’s a better theme for your ad?

A. XYZ company has been in business for 65 years. We are the best at ______ and can help you improve your ________.

B. (As a bold headline): Are you looking to have (whatever benefit your service provides)? Then focus the rest of the ad on the problems your customer faces and then introduce how your service is the solution.

Example A is probably ignored to begin with. If it is read, it comes off as “Blah, blah, blah. What’s in it for me?”

Example B gets attention because it focuses exactly on what the customer wants.

If you doubt that this is the correct way to advertise, the author understands. You are probably used to seeing ads like in example A. You may feel it is important to “show off” who you are to look good, be better than the competition, or one of your other vague concepts.

Bottom line: Do you want to increase sales or do you want an ad in the paper that makes you feel good?

Customers will buy when you focus on what they need, not when you try to make yourself look good.

This Marketing article was written by Chris Philippi on 2/11/2005

Chris Philippi is president of Philippi Marketing & Associates, a retail consulting firm specializing in helping independent retailers and small retail chains increase sales quickly, easily, and without expensive advertising. Chris is co-author of The Worlds Greatest Business Mentors and is available for speaking engagements and consulting around the world. Contact him at
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